Committee (1st Day) (Continued)
My Lords, in moving this Motion, I should like to refer briefly, for the benefit of all noble Lords, to interventions during the moving of amendments. During the previous session of the Committee earlier this afternoon, there were four occasions when Peers intervened on noble Lords as they were moving amendments and there was a mix of reactions from around the Chamber and indeed the Table. I thought it might be helpful to explain that it is permissible to intervene on a noble Lord when he is moving an amendment, particularly to ask a specific question for clarification. However, it is not customary to do so in this House because once a noble Lord has moved his amendment, it is permissible for noble Lords to intervene as many times as they wish during the debate at Committee stage. I thought noble Lords might find that clarification helpful.
24: Schedule 1, page 14, line 31, leave out paragraph (b)
My Lords, this is a probing amendment. Before the dinner break, we were discussing the circumstances in which information might be withheld from the Intelligence and Security Committee on grounds of national security. Paragraph 3(3)(b) refers to the withholding of information other than on grounds of national security, and the purpose of the amendment is to inquire of the Minister what sort of other information this sub-paragraph has in mind.
A characteristic of the Intelligence and Security Committee is that the agencies convey to it a good deal of information which would not be confided to a normal Select Committee. The ISC would be dismayed if that practice were to cease because this provision was in the Act. Therefore, I ask the Minister to give an example or examples of the sort of information that this sub-paragraph is included in the Bill in order to protect. If the box were empty, it would be a pity to have it in the Bill—indeed, doing so would make it poor legislation. However, if the Government have in mind information other than security information which should not be confided to the Intelligence and Security Committee, I know that the ISC would be very happy to consider that point.
My Lords, I wish to add briefly to what the noble Lord, Lord Butler of Brockwell, has said. I am puzzled by this sub-paragraph because it does not say “information other than national security”; it says,
“not limited to national security”.
That suggests that anything that cannot be allowed to go to another Select Committee should not be given to the Intelligence and Security Committee. We debated earlier why the ISC should not be a Select Committee, and one reason is so that it can receive information which cannot be passed to an ordinary Select Committee. It may be that this provision is very well meaning and that it touches on advice given to Ministers or on other matters where I think we would all accept there have to be limitations. However, I wonder whether the draftsman has this slightly wrong. One reason for asking for the sub-paragraph to be deleted is in the hope that the Minister, along with the draftsman, will look at it again and come back with something which meets what I think the sub-paragraph is trying to achieve in meaning but which it does not achieve at the moment.
My Lords, this concerns precisely the same query as I had during our debate on the previous amendment—that is, I cannot understand what the provision is referring to, although I recognise the wording. The wording comes from the draft of something else that I have read and it must already be known to the agencies. Therefore, some briefing must have been given to the Minister regarding the source and why its inclusion in the Bill is warranted. Perhaps even now at this late stage I can, on a second occasion, ask for the same information. I should like to know the answer. It may be that the provision should simply be redrafted in language which simpletons such as myself can understand. However, at the moment I do not understand what it means.
My Lords, I have Amendment 25 in this group but I had not given much thought to sub-paragraph (b), the subject of Amendment 24, other than to note it in general terms. A question occurs to me, however, as it is being discussed, as to whether it is normal—perhaps I should not say “appropriate” as I do not want to be judgmental—for primary legislation to refer to a procedural matter in this way and incorporate it into primary legislation. I will leave that there.
My Amendment 25 proposes an exclusion if we are to have decisions by Ministers as to what should not be disclosed. My noble friend Lord Thomas put his name to the amendment without realising, as he has just now prompted me, that my drafting is sloppy and it should have started “or (c)” and not just “(c)”. I apologise to the Committee for that. The information which could not be disclosed would be information relating to conduct which might be a,
“breach of UK or international law”.
I refer specifically to,
“the European Convention on Human Rights, the United Nations Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment”.
The wording is not original to me. It was suggested by Amnesty International. It was a good suggestion. I know that there are other noble Lords in the Chamber who have far more experience of these issues than I do. It occurred to me that the Minister might say that any such breach should not be dealt with in this way and if there was a claim by an individual about a breach that would be a matter for the court. Perhaps this amendment needs further thought. I would be concerned to be sure that the Government did not withhold such information. This at any rate might be a start and we will get the Minister’s comments.
My Lords, I rise as probably the least knowledgeable and competent person to say much about this but I do so because of my experience as a member of the Joint Committee on Human Rights. I am glad that the noble Lord, Lord Butler of Brockwell, has raised the issue. I do not expect an answer to my question this evening but it would be helpful if before Report stage what I am about to ask could be answered.
I am mystified about the principles that should apply not to the ISC but to parliamentary Select Committees generally. When we come to consider the Norwich Pharmacal matter, we will be considering the extent to which courts should not be able to order the disclosure of documents that might show serious wrongdoing of the kind indicated in the amendment of my noble friend Lady Hamwee because of the harm to national security or international relations. To that extent, the Executive would be less accountable to the courts than at present. The question then arises of the extent to which the Executive should be accountable to Parliament and especially to parliamentary committees. I understand why the committee we are concerned with should be treated differently from the ordinary parliamentary Select Committee for very good reasons to do with Clause 2 of the Bill. My question is: what ought to be the position with other parliamentary Select Committees? The noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, has tabled an amendment dealing with that general issue.
It would be very desirable if there were a practice direction of some kind, whether in the Ministerial Code or elsewhere, that indicated what needs to be done when a Select Committee seeks evidence of a non-sensitive kind and a security service gives an informed view not about policy but about other matters to the committee. I do not understand whether any practice is laid down on how that should be done and what the limits are when a Select Committee seeks such evidence.
Under the previous Government, when Andrew Dismore was chairman of the committee, we dealt with administrative detention without trial. We tried to get help from the security services. We were helped to some extent by the police service and we took evidence in camera from the police on some matters to do with counterterrorism. However, we were told that we could not do that with the intelligence and security services.
As I said, I do not expect an answer now, but it would be helpful if, between now and Report, we could be informed by letter of what the Government consider to be the general position on those issues. Certainly, if there is wrongdoing of a serious kind involving the sorts of issues covered by the amendment of my noble friend Lady Hamwee, and if that sort of material is not to be shown either to this or any other parliamentary committee, and is to be barred from, or limited in, legal proceedings, I am troubled by the lack of accountability of the Executive to the judicial branch of government as well as to Parliament itself.
My Lords, my question to the Minister is: what is meant by “proper” in paragraph 3(3)(b) of Schedule 1? One has to postulate a situation where a Select Committee, for example on health, asks for disclosure from a Minister, who says, “I would love to give you the information but it would not be proper—it would be contrary to propriety”. What does the word mean? Proper in what sense? Would it be immoral or illegal? What is the word supposed to convey? I simply do not understand and would be grateful if the Minister would help me.
My Lords, I think that there is unanimity around the House about the questions that need to be addressed in connection with Amendment 24. Our concern is that the Government may have lowered the threshold for proving that information should be withheld. Under the Bill, the Secretary of State will decide whether information is too sensitive to disclose or is of such a nature that it would not be proper to disclose it to a departmental Select Committee. However, where the Intelligence Services Act 1994 prevents the Secretary of State vetoing the disclosure of information on grounds of national security alone, now national security is just one of the conditions under which the Secretary of State may use their veto. I support the amendment of the noble Marquess, Lord Lothian, and the noble Lord, Lord Butler of Brockwell, because I share their curiosity about what a consideration that it is not proper to disclose information to a departmental Select Committee would mean in practice, and why the provision of it not being proper to do so is seen as a necessary alternative to non-disclosure on the grounds that the information is sensitive and affects national security. I would be grateful if the Minister would look at this again.
Amendment 25 in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, disallows the use of the ministerial veto on disclosure of information when it refers to conduct that would amount to a breach of international law. I am curious about how that would work in practice. Who would determine whether the conduct to which the information relates could amount to a breach of international law? I find it difficult to understand how a Secretary of State would make that judgment on the actions of her own Government. I understand the principle behind it but I am not clear how it would work in practice. If the Minister would explain what is meant by “proper”, that would be very helpful.
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, suggested that this amendment was similar to the previous one. He is right, but we have been allowed to have a one-hour break to have something to eat between that previous amendment and this one. It is similar to that amendment. He also said that he was somewhat confused by it. He is not the simple Scottish lawyer that my noble friend Lord Lothian is, but my noble friend also got it right when he said that it was possible that the draftsman had got it wrong. If that is the case, obviously I will ask the appropriate officials to look at it again to ensure that we have got the drafting right.
Before I come to the substantive part of the amendment, may I also make it clear to my noble friend Lord Lester that we will try to address his points about general aspects of dealing with Select Committees between now and Report? I cannot give any guarantee of that but I certainly hope to do so.
There are a number of very long-standing conventions that have developed in Parliament in the relationship between Select Committees and successive Governments. Those conventions recognise that there are categories of information that may, in certain circumstances, be withheld from Select Committees on grounds of public policy.
The noble Lord, Lord Butler, asked for particular examples. All I can say at this stage is that examples of the type of information are given in the Cabinet Office guide Departmental Evidence and Response to Select Committees. Some noble Lords may know this guide by its other name, the Osmotherly Rules. I do not know those intimately but I look at the smile on the face of the noble Lord and I suspect that he was probably the one who drafted them some years ago. He shakes his head. But he knows them well. The categories of information set out in that guide include information about matters which are sub judice, information which could only be supplied after carrying out substantial research or at excessive cost, and papers of a previous Administration.
The sub-paragraph of the Bill that the noble Lords propose be left out and which my noble friend asks that we have the draftsmen look at again is a necessary part of the Bill. It provides a basis for withholding these categories of information from the ISC. If the relationship between the ISC and government is to reflect the relationship between a Select Committee and the Government, then it seems to the Government to be essential to have this significant aspect of the relationship.
The provision gives the Minister of the Crown discretion only to withhold material. In exercising that discretion the Minister would, of course, have regard to the provisions that the ISC has for keeping material confidential. For this reason, we would expect these powers to be used sparingly and only in exceptional circumstances. They have only been used sparingly in the past and we expect this to continue. However, it is important that those safeguards are retained.
My noble friend Lord Thomas also asked for the definition of “proper” in paragraph 3(3)(b). That is something I would ask that we look at again in relation to the concerns over the drafting of the Bill. With that explanation, I hope the noble Lord will feel it is not necessary to move his Amendment 24.
Amendment 25 would introduce a limitation on, or exception to, the powers of the Secretary of State or a Minister of the Crown to withhold information from the ISC, under paragraphs 3(1)(b) or 3(2)(b) of Schedule 1. The exception would apply wherever the information requested by the ISC relates to conduct which may amount to a breach of UK or international law.
Various noble Lords spoke very strongly about this at Second Reading, and I know there are concerns to ensure that the new ISC can operate as effectively as possible in future. Other amendments would obviously have the effect of removing entirely the powers of the Secretary of State or a Minister of the Crown—we discussed that in an earlier amendment—to withhold information from the ISC. This amendment is an alternative, therefore, to those amendments.
I appreciate the intention behind the amendment but I should like to make a number of points in response. It seems that the purpose of the amendment is to ensure that information cannot be withheld from the ISC if it relates to potentially unlawful conduct on the part of the agencies or other parts of the Government’s intelligence community. However, the effect of the exception would not be limited in this way whenever information requested by the ISC relates to potentially unlawful conduct by any person or—at least when it comes to potential breaches of international law—any foreign state on which intelligence is held. Given the nature of the work carried out by the agencies, particularly in the field of counterterrorism, it will be appreciated that such an exception is likely to apply to a great deal of information held by the agencies and other intelligence bodies.
It is worth reminding the Committee of the kinds of information that could be withheld from the ISC according to the provisions of the Bill. A Minister of the Crown, a Secretary of State or whoever may decide that information should be withheld if it is sensitive information which, in the interests of national security, should not be disclosed to the ISC. Sensitive information is defined in paragraph 4 of Schedule 1. It includes information about sources and operational methods, and information subject to the control principle—that is, information provided to the United Kingdom by or on behalf of another country where that other country does not consent to disclosure of the information. The Committee will appreciate that information in these categories is of the utmost sensitivity.
None the less, sensitive information must still be provided to the ISC when requested unless the Minister is satisfied that the information should not be disclosed to the ISC in the interests of national security. Accordingly, in coming to a decision about whether or not to withhold sensitive information, the Minister will take account of the nature of the ISC, the important oversight functions it performs and the mechanisms it has to safeguard sensitive information. With the exception that this amendment would introduce in place, Ministers would be left without a power to withhold a significant category of sensitive information in those exceptional circumstances where the disclosure of information, even to the ISC, would be damaging to national security.
Currently, agency heads can make a decision not to disclose information to the ISC on the basis that it is sensitive and they consider that it would not be safe to disclose it. Again, as noble Lords who have served on the ISC will know, these powers have been used very rarely in the past. We expect the equivalent powers in the Bill, which make these decisions ones for Ministers rather than agency heads, as we have discussed, to continue to be used sparingly and only in exceptional circumstances. However, it is important that these safeguards are retained as there will continue to be material the nature of which is so sensitive that access to it must be very narrowly restricted in the interests of national security.
The ISC’s oversight role is not designed to supplant the role of the courts.
I understand all of that in the context of sub-paragraph (3)(a), which is carefully drafted and limited. However, I do not understand how it applies to the sub-paragraph that has been questioned by the noble Lord, Lord Butler of Brockwell, because that does not deal with sensitive information as defined in sub-paragraph (4) but simply states that,
“it is information of such a nature that, if the Minister were requested to produce it before a … Committee … the Minister would consider (on grounds which were not limited to national security) it proper not to do so”.
Unless I am completely wrong, that seems entirely subjective. It certainly would not be subject to judicial review. It is a Humpty Dumpty: when I use a word it means whatever I say it means, nothing more. To use an example from Ring Lardner: “‘Shut up’, he explained”. It is standardless and would cover anything the Minister thought about propriety. Surely that cannot be a proportionate way of having a safeguard.
I do not think that the noble Lord, dare I say it, listened to what I was saying earlier about this amendment. It may be that we need to look at the drafting. I have given a commitment to the Committee that we will deal with that in due course and look to see whether we have got it right. As I explained—I have to go back into my speech—I think that that is probably the right way to proceed. If the noble Lord is accusing me of taking a Humpty-Dumpty approach, well, Humpty Dumpty was not always that wrong with some of these things; certainty in terms of when one is speaking at the Dispatch Box and defining what words mean. Anyway, if I say it means that, that is what it does mean—that, I think, is what the Humpty-Dumpty approach is.
I do not think that I can add much more to my response to the noble Lord and other noble Lords. I appreciate the intention behind Amendment 25. I appreciate what my noble friend is doing but I hope that the noble Lord will feel able to withdraw his amendment at this stage.
As the noble Lord, Lord Henley, was speaking I wondered whether the word, “proper” is supposed to mean “contrary to convention”. It would be impossible to have a convention across all departments where there are Select Committees so it was conventional in one department to release this information but it might be conventional in another to release more or less. It would be almost impossible to get a standard of disclosure of information across the board which it is proper to disclose. I am very grateful for what the Minister has said on that issue.
I am grateful to the Minister for saying that he will, with counsel, look at the drafting of this again, because it is clear from the contributions that were made to the debate that many of us do not understand entirely what is meant. I do, indeed, remember the Osmotherley Rules very well. I did not draft them myself—not surprisingly they were drafted by an official called Edward Osmotherley—but I do remember invoking them before Select Committees on various occasions and I do recognise as valid categories the categories that the Minister has mentioned. However, I think that the noble Lords, Lord Lester and Lord Thomas, have a good point when they say that, as drafted, this appears to be entirely subjective on the part of the Minister and the Minister, under this power, would be able to withhold anything which in his opinion was not proper. The Osmotherley Rules were instructions from Ministers to officials, but were, I think, generally accepted by Select Committees—not always; they were sometimes challenged—and were certainly the rules by which officials were guided. They were known and became accepted. The way that this is drafted introduces a more subjective element.
On the basis that the Minister has said he will look at the drafting and also that he assured the House that it is intended that the Minister will use this discretion sparingly, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 24 withdrawn.
Amendments 25 and 26 not moved.
27: Schedule 1, page 14, line 46, at end insert—
“(6) In this paragraph “information” includes documents and other material whether held in documentary, electronic or other form.”
Amendment 27 will not take long —under a minute. The amendment seeks confirmation that in this paragraph in Schedule 1 “information” includes the items listed. I cannot believe that it does not. Perhaps the Minister can even reply within the minute. I beg to move.
I can be very brief. I can offer an assurance to my noble friend that “information” includes documents and other material whether held in documentary, electronic or other form. I hope that with that reassurance my noble friend will accept that the term “information” in the Bill includes all the matters that she lists.
Amendment 27 withdrawn.
Amendment 28 not moved.
Schedule 1 agreed.
Clause 2 : Main functions of the ISC
29: Clause 2, page 2, line 8, leave out from “oversee” to end of line 10 and insert “any part of a government department, or any part of Her Majesty’s forces, which is engaged in intelligence or security activities”
My Lords, Clause 2(2) states:
“The ISC may examine or otherwise oversee such other activities of Her Majesty's Government in relation to intelligence or security matters as are set out in a memorandum of understanding”.
This follows Clause 2(1) which states that:
“The ISC may examine or otherwise oversee the expenditure, administration, policy and operations of —
(a) the Security Service,
(b) the Secret Intelligence Service, and
(c) the Government Communications Headquarters”.
The issue arises as to what are these,
“other activities of Her Majesty's Government in relation to intelligence or security matters”,
that are so vague that they cannot be set out in the Bill, or what are such unknown other activities of Her Majesty’s Government that not even Her Majesty’s Government know what they are. Rather than declare them now, the Government want to tuck them away in a memorandum of understanding that must be agreed with the Prime Minister and not be subject to prior discussion as part of this Bill or subsequently approved by Parliament. This idea of not providing important details when a Bill is published, or within a Bill itself, is becoming a feature of Home Office legislation. We have seen the same thing with the framework document which is still awaited under the Crime and Courts Bill. It is a most unsatisfactory and lazy approach on the part of the Home Office.
The amendment seeks to define what those other activities are in subsection (2) which, under this amendment, would read:
“The Intelligence and Security Committee may examine or otherwise oversee any part of a government department, or any part of Her Majesty's forces, which is engaged in intelligence or security activities”.
That is in line with the wording in paragraph 4 of Schedule 1 to the Bill, which defines sensitive information as,
“information which might lead to the identification of, or provide details of, sources of information, other assistance or operational methods available to—
(i) the Security Service,
(ii) the Secret Intelligence Service,
(iii) the Government Communications Headquarters, or
(iv) any part of a government department, or any part of Her Majesty's forces, which are engaged in intelligence or security activities”.
The wording in the amendment makes Clause 2(2) less vague and more specific. If the Minister does not like the amendment, perhaps he could set out what,
“other activities of Her Majesty’s Government in relation to intelligence or security matters”,
are not covered by the amendment and by Clause 2(1). Perhaps he could also say why the Government prefer to spell out some areas of examination or oversight by the ISC in a subsequent memorandum of understanding, rather than spell them out in the Bill. I beg to move.
My Lords, that was a rather savage attack on the Government, which was not entirely justified. I thought there was a general recognition in the House that what the Government are doing in this clause is recognising the situation that has already developed. The ISC started with a fairly limited remit under the Intelligence Services Act 1994. Progressively, through such things as the DIS in the Ministry of Defence, JIC and access to JIC assessments, bringing in the Comptroller and Auditor-General to assess the financial operations of the agencies—a whole lot of different ways—the committee expanded its role and activities in a way that was entirely sensible, in which people collaborated, and which was accepted by the agencies and the Government.
I do not know whether there is something frightfully subtle in the amendment that the Opposition have tabled and how far it is significantly different from what the Government have already put in the Bill. The Government are recognising, and it seems quite fair that it is set out in a memorandum of understanding, just what the area and remit of the committee will be. Certainly, in the end—I think it was the experience of the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, as well——whatever we sought to look into and in the range over which we sought to expand our activities, I do not recall any area in which we were significantly frustrated.
My Lords, this is the first of a number of amendments that deal with a memorandum of understanding. I start by apologising to the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, who makes attacks on the Home Office for being somewhat remiss in the slowness with which it produces things, particularly in relation to the framework document. As the noble Lord is aware, I have promised that we will have a draft or an outline of that framework document before we get to Report stage of the Crime and Courts Bill. Since that is unlikely to take place in this House before the end of October, we have a certain amount of time.
On the memorandum of understanding, as set out in the Bill, I am grateful for the support of my noble friend Lord King on this. It is right that the memorandum of understanding should spell out the precise remit of the ISC in relation to bodies other than the agencies, because the memorandum of understanding can make provision at a level of detail that is not appropriate for primary legislation. This is particularly important because parts of government departments engaged in intelligence and security activities may well be engaged in other activities besides, which would not properly fall within the remit of the ISC.
Clearly, things change over time. Departments reorganise. The functions done by one department one year may be done by another the following year. The noble Lord will remember when his party was in Government, how frequently they changed the names and the functions of departments. I have completely lost track of the number of changes there were to departments. One of the things we did very firmly when we came back into office was not to change the names or functions of departments, except in the most marginal capacity.
I believe the intelligence world is no different to any other part of government. For example, as with the recent Levene report, we could find that future reorganisations of defence may change organisational boundaries that affect the MoD’s intelligence activities. A memorandum of understanding is a flexible document. It can be changed much more easily than primary legislation. It will enable the intention of the Government that the ISC should have oversight of substantively all of central government’s intelligence and security activities to be realised now and, more importantly, in the future should they change. The amendment seeks to limit that. For that reason I cannot offer any support to the amendment. I hope the noble Lord will feel able to withdraw it.
I thank the Minister for the reply. Of course, my amendment does not refer to any government department by name because it lifts the wording from paragraph 4 of Schedule 1, which refers to,
“any part of a government department, or any part of Her Majesty’s forces, which is engaged in intelligence or security activities”.
From what the noble Lord has said, I am still not quite sure how extensive the areas will be that might be included in the memorandum of understanding that would not be included in the definition that I have given in this amendment, when that is also allied to Clause 2(1). So I am not sure I have had a very direct answer to that question.
Nor has the Minister addressed the fact that putting it in a memorandum of understanding means that it will not be subject to prior discussion as part of this Bill. It is a document that the ISC has to agree with the Prime Minister and, as I understand it, it will not have to be approved subsequently by Parliament. The more reliance that is put on that memorandum of understanding and the more information that is put in it, the less opportunity this House has to discuss the issue.
I would have thought that since the wording I used has been lifted from another part of his own Bill, the Minister might at least have accepted that that was worth considering because it would, at the very least, reduce the amount that had to be covered in the memorandum of understanding, and thus reduce the amount that could not be debated as part of this Bill and which would not require the approval of Parliament. There has been no offer from the Minister even to look at this issue from that aspect. It is just a straight dismissal of the terms of this amendment. I express my disappointment at the Minister’s reply—he could have been much more sympathetic and helpful—but I note his reply and beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 29 withdrawn.
30: Clause 2, page 2, line 12, leave out from “as” to end of line 13
My Lords, Amendments 30 and 32, in my name and that of my colleague the noble Marquess, Lord Lothian, raise substantial points.
Amendment 30 deals with the point where the Bill cannot mean what it presently says. I will read it out and that will be the best way of making it clear. Clause 2(3) states:
“The ISC may, by virtue of subsection (1) or (2), consider any particular operational matter but only so far as the ISC and the Prime Minister are satisfied that … the matter … is not part of any ongoing intelligence or security operation, and … is of significant national interest”.
The Intelligence and Security Committee accepts entirely that those are the two categories of operation that the committee should—and does—normally look at. I note that the amendment tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, seeks to remove the ban on looking at any ongoing intelligence operation. The committee agrees that its oversight of operations should be retrospective and on matters “of significant national interest”.
However, the effect of the drafting is that when an operation “of significant national interest” is over, the agencies should have to get clearance from the Prime Minister as well as the ISC before discussing those matters with the committee. That is not only bureaucratically very intensive but a step backwards from what happens now. What happens now is that when an operation involving important matters is over, the intelligence agencies, of their own accord, report on it to the ISC, which looks into it and discusses it with them. The committee has had access to that sort of material for a number of years. In some cases the agencies volunteer it and in other cases the ISC asks to see it. I cannot believe that it is the intention in such cases, which have been routinely going on, that the Bill should require the Prime Minister to be consulted whenever the agencies wish to report such matters to the committee.
That having been said, the ISC is content that its normal purview should be of operations retrospectively where there are significant national interests. Amendment 32 would add a new subsection saying:
“The ISC may, notwithstanding subsection (3), consider any particular operational matter if the relevant Minister of the Crown agrees to the consideration of the matter”.
That is simply to give flexibility. As I said, there is no difference from the Government’s view that the purview should normally be retrospective. However, if it suited the Government that the committee should look at an ongoing security operation—this would be at the discretion of the Government—clearly it would be unfortunate if the Bill ruled that out. This is simply to allow flexibility on a matter where in general the committee and the Government are in agreement.
If I may, I will quickly add a word to what the noble Lord, Lord Butler of Brockwell, said. He talked about this provision creating bureaucracy. In my view it could be worse. It could create an enormous logjam in Downing Street if every single item needed the consent of the Prime Minister. The danger then is that the logjam will continue to grow until you get to a stage where information that should have been looked at either will not be looked at or will be looked at so late in the day that it is not worth looking at.
My Lords, I have proposed Amendment 31 not because I want to remove completely the intent behind the words,
“is not part of any ongoing intelligence or security operation”;
but because it needs qualifying further. Under the proposals in this clause, it is possible to block much operational material being brought before the Committee. As I read it, the agencies need only declare that a matter is,
“part of any ongoing intelligence or security operation”,
and they can block it and deny access to the committee. What is the danger in that? It could close the door on a large volume of information.
Let us take as an example operations in Iraq. Because of the merging of operations, one could simply group an operation, which the committee might regard as one that it should be considering, with other operations in Iraq but merge them under a single operation heading and, by taking that action, avoid bringing information about those operations before the committee. Therefore, merged operations may well hide information from the committee to which it should have access. The same would apply to operations in Afghanistan. It could certainly apply to operations relating to drugs in Colombia and, without doubt, it could refer to operations in Northern Ireland. Simply the declaration that they were merged under one operation would mean that the committee could be denied information. I wondered whether the services were aware of this when they were making their submissions during the drawing up of the Bill, so that they were prepared to concede the principle of access to operational information.
That brings me back to my model, because it is only if the chairman of the committee has access to everything that that possible problem can be avoided. The chairman would be in a position to argue with the agency about whether the merging of operations was denying information to the committee.
My Lords, as I consider our proceedings in this Committee stage of the Bill, I increasingly think that your Lordships’ House is providing a real service to the other place in the fact that this Bill has started here. It is quite clear that there are some drafting problems. The amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Butler, and, indeed, the amendment tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, are serious amendments that should be considered. I think that the Minister will be doing a great service to his colleagues in the department and may be able to clear up a number of issues. The drafting is not right. It could be cleared up now and the Bill will be much simpler and much more appropriate by the time it goes to another place.
My Lords, I regret that I was not able to take part in the Second Reading of this Bill. I support Amendment 32 and suggest that in one very minor respect it may not go quite far enough. There used to be a body known as the Security Commission, on which I served for some years. I succeeded the noble and learned Lord, Lord Griffiths, as chairman of that body and was in due course succeeded by the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss. Our main function was to investigate and report on cases of espionage—selling secrets to the Russians and things of that kind. We were appointed by the Prime Minister to investigate particular matters and, before we were appointed, we had to have the consent of the leader of the Opposition. The noble Lord, Lord King of Bridgwater, will remember those days. I think that it can be said that we did the state some service. Since the end of the Cold War, espionage is no longer the problem that it was, certainly not in the same way. Therefore the Security Commission has not sat for some years.
I suggest that it is possible that such cases might arise again in the future. If they did, surely the new security committee would be the obvious body—the ideal body—to carry out such an investigation. That being so—if it is so—I am concerned that Clause 2, even with the amendment suggested by the noble Lord, Lord Butler, might not be quite right to enable that to happen. It might or might not be, strictly speaking, an operational matter of MI6.
My suggestion would be to add a very few words to Clause 2(4). After the word “functions”, one could add, “or the functions formerly performed by the Security Commission”. That would be in line 20. Future historians would no longer have to worry about whatever happened to the Security Commission and we would have given that body what one might call a decent burial. I had drafted an amendment to that effect, but I was too late to put it down this morning. I would be happy to move such an amendment on Report, if it were to find favour.
My Lords, this certainly seems a very sensible and practical group of amendments. Amendment 30 would remove the Prime Minister’s involvement in the assessment of whether a matter that the ISC wished to consider satisfied the criteria of being of significant national interest and not part of an ongoing operation. I fully support the extension of the ISC’s statutory remit to include particular operational matters; it is a function that the committee, in practice, already performs. We also understand the necessity of constraining this remit. I think that the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, in speaking to his amendment, made that point, too. It is necessary to ensure that the committee’s work is focused on areas of significant national interest and does not jeopardise ongoing operations. The determination of whether an operation is of significant national interest and whether it is not currently ongoing are objective judgments. One is a decision about what is of interest to the public, which the committee is surely best placed to judge, and the other is a statement of fact, which would simply involve consultation with the relevant government agencies. It is not a process of negotiation with the Prime Minister.
It is unclear to me why this assessment cannot be left to the discretion of the committee without needing the involvement of the Prime Minister. If the key point of the reforms in this legislation is to establish a clearer independence of the committee from the Prime Minister and a closer connection with Parliament, then requiring the ISC to seek the permission and the agreement of the Prime Minister before determining whether a specific operational matter lies in its remit sends a completely wrong signal about the independence of the ISC.
We also give full support to Amendment 32, which would provide important flexibility to the committee’s powers to view specific operational matters. We have consistently argued that the ISC should be given the power to review specific operational matters, such as control orders, while recognising that limitations may apply with respect to ongoing operations where the committee’s work may jeopardise the integrity of those operations. An absolute ban on considering any ongoing operational matters seems to us to be unnecessarily heavy-handed. It is easy to imagine particular cases of significant public interest, perhaps where the majority of the operation has been concluded but there is still some ongoing activity that cannot be reviewed by the committee, even if the Government agree that there is no risk. Amendment 32 would be a highly sensible alternative to the blanket ban by allowing the committee, with the agreement of the Secretary of State, to review certain ongoing operations. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord King of Bridgwater, that there seems to be a drafting deficiency. I hope that the Minister can give a more positive response to this group of amendments than he was able to for the last one.
My Lords, first, if there are any drafting concerns about this Bill, as I hope I made clear at an earlier stage, we will be more than happy to look at them. This is what this House does very well and the debates that we have been having this afternoon are indicative of that. We will take these points on board and the similar drafting points made by my noble friend Lord Lothian.
Secondly, I understand that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd, tried to table an amendment earlier today but I think that he missed the boat. I suppose that he could still have put down a manuscript amendment—fortunately, he decided not to—but he will come back to that in greater detail on Report. Certainly we will listen to his remarks in due course about the Security Commission, which he said that he chaired and which was later chaired by the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss.
I hope that the Committee will bear with me if I explain in some detail just what we are trying to do and what we think is wrong with the amendments. I hope that noble Lords will also accept that, as I just said, we are more than happy to look at matters relating to drafting again, because we want to get this right.
The Bill extends the ISC’s statutory remit and makes clear its ability to oversee the operational work of the security and intelligence agencies. This is an important and significant change and will be key to ensuring that the ISC continues to perform an effective oversight role. With this formalisation of its role in oversight of operational matters, we would expect the new ISC to provide such oversight on a more regular basis.
In the Bill, the ISC may consider any particular operational matter, but only so far as the ISC and the Prime Minister are satisfied that the matter is not part of any ongoing intelligence or security operation and is of significant national interest. The ISC’s oversight in this area must be retrospective and should not involve, for instance, prior knowledge or approval of agency activity. Consideration of the matter must also be consistent with any principles set out in, or other provision made by, a memorandum of understanding. We will discuss that again in due course.
Of course, the ISC is not the only body that oversees the operational activity of the agencies. The Prime Minister has overall responsibility within government for intelligence and security matters and for the agencies. Day-to-day ministerial responsibility for the Security Service lies with the Home Secretary and, for the Secret Intelligence Service and GCHQ, with the Foreign Secretary. The Home Secretary is accountable to Parliament, and therefore to the public, for the work of the Security Service; similarly, the Foreign Secretary has his accountability.
The Intelligence Services Commissioner provides oversight of the use of a number of key investigatory techniques employed by the agencies and by members of Her Majesty’s forces and Ministry of Defence personnel outside Northern Ireland. The Interception of Communications Commissioner’s central function is to keep under review the issue of warrants for the interception of communications.
On Amendments 30, 31 and 32, the first amendment would have the effect of leaving it solely to the judgment of the ISC to decide when the criteria for considering a particular operational matter are met. The noble Lord, Lord Butler, is a current member of the Intelligence and Security Committee and, as such, speaks from a position of great knowledge. However, I hope that he would agree that the judgment as to whether an operational matter meets the criteria is one that should be for both the ISC and the Government and not just for one or the other. It is very important that we get this judgment right.
It may be worth making the point that the amendment does not leave it solely to the judgment of the ISC; it just says, as a matter of fact, that the operation has concluded or is of national significance. So it would not just be the ISC that decided that—it would be the fact. If I may say so, the Minister misunderstands the purpose of the amendment.
I apologise to that extent if I have misunderstood what the noble Lord was getting at in his amendment and I hope that I did not mislead the House in so doing. The Government’s intention, on that memorandum of understanding, which has to be agreed by the Government and the ISC, is that it will be the appropriate vehicle for agreeing the process to ensure that the information is provided to the committee in an appropriately prompt manner.
The amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, would remove one of the key restrictions on the ISC’s new power to oversee agency operations, namely the requirement that its oversight of operations should be retrospective. The extension in the Bill of the ISC’s statutory remit into the agencies’ operational work is a significant deepening of the committee’s powers. While the ISC has in the past conducted inquiries into operational matters with the agreement of the Prime Minister, such as its inquiries into the London bombings of 7 July 2005 and into rendition, the provisions in the Bill provide a formal remit for the committee in this area. We anticipate that the new ISC will provide such oversight on a more regular basis.
We have worked with the current ISC to develop the new arrangements, and the committee agrees with the Government that its oversight of operations should be retrospective in nature. In other words, the ISC should not oversee operations that are ongoing. There are a number of very good reasons for this.
This is my concern about the drafting: what is an ongoing operation? Is it 7/7 and the follow-up; or is it the jihadist threat that exists and which we think possibly continues to exist at this time, with the Olympics coming up and the heightened security alert that will continue afterwards? What is an “ongoing” security operation?
My Lords, I am not sure that the word “ongoing” has actually been tested in the courts. It is in the Bill, which is why I make this point. We have no judicial interpretation of “ongoing”, but I hope the courts would understand and interpret it as the words appear in the Bill.
This has nothing to do with the courts. This will be a discussion in the committee with the chairman and the agencies, which is where we may well end up having an argument. The agencies may say no, or Ministers may say, “No, you cannot have it because it is part of some ongoing operation”. They will not know the point at which operations have merged into a long extended operation that might go on for a long time. I am quite worried about this section. I am beginning to believe that the agencies might have conceded on this fact because they knew that they would be able to use this issue of merged operations as a way of avoiding giving information to the committee. The Minister is saying nothing here to reassure me. Perhaps he will give us more detail on Report about what constitutes “ongoing” in the way which the noble Lord, Lord King, has suggested.
I think the problem is the word “operation”. Certainly in the security and intelligence world, an operation is something finite, with a code name, that will come to an end. I think that is what the legislation is trying to get at. It certainly would not be a merged operation such as a jihadist threat or Iraq, which would not be seen in those terms. That may be the difficulty. If we can make that clear in defining it, that might be helpful to the Minister.
I am grateful to the noble Baroness for her intervention. I am also grateful to my noble friend Lady Hamwee for her suggestion that “current” might be a better word than “ongoing”. “Ongoing” is not a word that I would necessarily have wanted to use and is not one that I have come across much before in legislation. “Current” might be a better term and might be one of the reasons why we need to look at the drafting of these matters, to make sure that we have got it absolutely right. For that reason, all I can say is that we will look again—the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, smiles—at that word “ongoing” and make sure that we have got it right. Again, as a layman and not a simple Scottish lawyer, it seems to me that “ongoing” is something that we can all understand relatively simply, so I hope we can get this right. That is the point of the processes that we are going through in this House. I hope that we can get it right in due course.
Amendment 32 is the third amendment in this group and the second in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Butler, and my noble friend Lord Lothian, and would allow the ISC to oversee an operational matter that does not meet the criteria in Clause 2(3) if the relevant Minister of the Crown agrees to consider the matter. Given that the requirement is that the Government and the ISC both need to agree, it is difficult to see circumstances in which the noble Lords’ amendment would ever need to be used. For example, we cannot presently foresee circumstances in which it would be appropriate to call on the ISC to put its resources towards examination of operational matters that were not of significant national interest.
Nor would it be appropriate for the ISC to have a role in approving future actions or decisions relating to the agencies, or to examine ongoing—again I use that word, but perhaps I ought to say current—operations. Such a role could cut across lines of ministerial accountability and could even have the potential to prejudice those operations. The amendment is therefore unnecessary.
I hope that that deals with most of the points. I am sure that it does not, but I have given a commitment that we will look again at the drafting of this part of Clause 2. I hope that the noble Lord will feel able to withdraw the amendment.
My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister and to other noble Lords who have taken part in this debate. It has brought to light matters that need to be clarified before Report. I emphasise again—and I apologise for rudely interrupting the Minister—that there is no difference between the ISC and the Government on what the committee’s purview should be. The ISC accepts that its purview should normally be retrospective and that it should be confined to matters of significant national interest. What is new about the way the clause is drafted is the interpolation of the Prime Minister in deciding that that is the case. That is unnecessary, and as my colleague, the noble Marquess, Lord Lothian, said, it would produce the most tremendous logjam and would be a backward step from where we are now. That is the only difference, but I hope that that issue can be looked at again.
If I may say so, the discussion on the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, brings out the ambiguity of the word “operations”. As the noble Baroness, Lady Manningham-Buller, said, it is perhaps because it is a term of art in intelligence speak and means something specific rather than an ongoing exercise. If I may do the draftsman’s work and join the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, it may be that “specific operation” might be more helpful than “current” or “ongoing”. However, that is a matter for consideration.
On Amendment 32, I am fortified by a whispered conversation with the noble Baroness, Lady Manningham- Buller. One can imagine a situation in which it might be useful to Parliament and the nation, and to the agencies themselves, if the ISC is asked to look at an ongoing, even specific, operation. Let us imagine that something is going on that has got into the media, is creating great concern, there are great sensitivities to it, but it is urgent that someone should look at the matter and provide a report to Parliament. That is the sort of circumstance in which my proposal might be helpful. It is discretionary and the decision would be with the approval of the Minister, but it seems a pity not to allow for that sort of situation by making provision for it in the Bill.
Those are the considerations that I would urge on the Minister and the Government. With the assurance that he will look at them before Report, I am content to withdraw the amendment and not move Amendment 32. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 30 withdrawn.
Amendments 31 and 32 not moved.
33: Clause 2, page 2, line 24, at end insert—
“(d) must be approved by Parliament”
My Lords, I shall be very brief as the hour is late. I cannot see what the problem is with the Government accepting this amendment, which would simply require that the memorandum of understanding under this clause should be approved by Parliament. It is not as if the memorandum of understanding would include security sensitive information. As I understand it, it is simply about structures. The parliamentary debate would be about the structures that have been established in the detail of the memorandum of understanding. In addition, if Parliament were to give approval during the debate, Members might want to raise issues not covered in the memorandum of understanding. One of these might be regarding the investigator. There was once an investigator to the ISC. If I remember correctly, his name was Mr Morrison, and for reasons I have never understood his employment was terminated. Many Members called for the investigator to be in place and I should have thought this is an example of an area where Members of Parliament might want to question Ministers.
There is also the issue of access to individual officers within the service. When I was on the committee, the arrangement was that it was primarily the directors of the services who gave evidence to the committee, although on occasion it was one or two others. It might be that the memorandum of understanding should be considered by Parliament in the context that there needs to be some flexibility on whether people other than agency directors—perhaps officers from lower down within the ranks—should be called upon to give evidence to the committee. I do not know because this is an area I do not know a lot about. All I am saying is that I think there is room here for a debate in Parliament to consider the detail of the structure, and it is something that we have not debated here today.
My noble friend Lord Rosser dealt in some detail with these issues during the debate on one of his amendments and he sought assurances. I do hope that the Minister can explain today why Parliament will not be approving these matters. I understand that the document will be laid before Parliament, but that there will be no parliamentary debate. I beg to move.
My Lords, I have Amendment 34 in this group, which uses the formal language of the affirmative procedure but comes to the same thing as the noble Lord’s Amendment 33. I tabled the amendment in part because I wanted to seek more information about the memorandum of understanding. The noble Lord may not have seen it, but the Government have today circulated a long note responding to a number of points raised by noble Lords at Second Reading, for which I thank them. The note includes a paragraph on the memorandum of understanding in response to my question about whether we will be able to see a draft of it, or of a framework, to enable further debate.
Perhaps I may assist the noble Lord. It was a note sent out by myself and my noble and learned friend Lord Wallace of Tankerness, which I hope went to all Peers who spoke at Second Reading. If the noble Lord has not received his, he should have done and I can only blame the post.
My Lords, the Minister should not blame the post; it came to me by e-mail this morning. The post may follow in about three days. I want to put on the record what the note told me and other noble Lords who have seen it about the memorandum of understanding. It states:
“The MoU needs to be agreed between the ISC and the Prime Minister”.
We know that. It continues:
“We are starting this process of drafting and agreeing this document, and will do so in parallel”—
I stress those words—
“with the Bill’s passage ... Once we have an agreed draft … it is our intention that it is published, to help inform debate”.
The thrust of my amendment is that it should be subject to debate. The Ministers who sent the letter then told us:
“The matters covered … may include … The factors to be taken into account in deciding whether a particular operational matter which the ISC might wish to consider is ongoing and/or of significant national interest … A description of the arrangements by which the ISC will request, be provided with and hold information, including the circumstances in which the ISC will be able to access primary source materials … A description of the role of investigative staff in the ISC’s work; and … A description of the process for producing an ISC report”.
As the noble Lord said, the memorandum of understanding will be a public document, so it cannot be so sensitive that that is a reason for it not to be debated. I say to the Committee that today’s debates have shown how much Parliament—and this House in particular—has to contribute to consideration of the criteria that will be applied. We are told in Clause 2(4)(a) that the memorandum of understanding,
“may include other provision … which is not of the kind envisaged in subsection (2) or (3)”.
That is very wide. I realise that “envisaged” is another term that I have not come across in legislation before. I do not know whether it means more than “not within”, “not as described” or “not subject to” subsections (2) and (3). I am beginning to feel like an awful old fogey in raising these points but legislation should be completely clear. I believe that the criteria should be matters for debate and not simply for the draft, although we look forward to it as it will inform debate. Reading this note, it seems to me that the approach is more top-down than I should like to have seen.
My Lords, perhaps I may make one brief comment. I have already expressed our views about the memorandum of understanding and I think that in return I was told by the noble Lord, Lord King of Bridgwater, that I was being savage.
I just wish to pursue the point that the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, made about other references in Clause 2 to the kind of content that will be included in the memorandum of understanding, which we will not get an opportunity to debate and which does not have to be approved by Parliament. Clause 2(3) says:
“The ISC may, by virtue of subsection (1) or (2), consider any particular operational matter but only so far as the ISC and the Prime Minister are satisfied that … the matter … is not part of any ongoing intelligence or security operation, and … is of significant national interest, and … the consideration of the matter is consistent with any principles set out in, or other provision made by, a memorandum of understanding”.
One has to bear in mind that this is not a document that we will be able to debate and discuss and it will not need to be approved by Parliament unless the Minister is going to move on this amendment. What are these principles that will be set out in the memorandum of understanding which we are not going to be told about when discussing the Bill and which we are not going to be allowed to discuss?
My Lords, first, I apologise to the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee—who is great on drafting. She has picked out another word—envisaged—which she has not come across in legislation before. We will add that to “ongoing”. I suspect that, like her, I am probably an old fogey on these matters. These matters are new to drafting but develop in the way that they do. We will consult the draftsman on whether he is happy with “envisaged” or whether some other word could do it.
It would probably be helpful if I first explain the purpose of the memorandum. We believe that it will be an important document in the relationship between the ISC and the Government. It will define the precise extent of the ISC’s oversight of parts of the intelligence community other than the agencies. It will set principles or other criteria that must be met before the ISC can consider particular operational matters. It will describe the arrangements by which the agencies and other intelligence bodies will supply information to the ISC. We expect that it will also cover matters such as: the factors to be taken into account in deciding whether a particular operational matter which the ISC might wish to consider is ongoing, current—or whatever word we particularly wish to use—and/or of significant national interest; a description of the arrangements by which the ISC will request and hold information, including the circumstances in which the ISC will be able to access primary source materials; a description of the role of investigative staff in the ISC’s work; and a description of the process for producing an ISC report. That is what we intend that it should cover. There will no doubt be other matters that will also need to be covered.
The memorandum of understanding in the Bill must be agreed between the Prime Minister and the ISC and it can be altered or replaced at any time by agreement. It is intended that the first memorandum of understanding will be agreed immediately on the coming into force of the relevant provisions. As I said, however, we hope that we can give some idea of what it is going to look like by the time we reach Report.
As is usual for a memorandum of understanding—this is not an unusual procedure—there is no parliamentary approval procedure. This was looked at by the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee and it was perfectly happy with this. While the memorandum of understanding itself will be an unclassified document which will be published and laid before Parliament, its precise terms are very likely to be shaped by matters which are sensitive in terms of national security and which therefore cannot be made public. In these circumstances, it is particularly appropriate that the memorandum of understanding can be concluded without the need for parliamentary approval.
Of course the terms of the memorandum of understanding must be agreed with the ISC. The Bill makes that clear—it is agreed between the Government and the ISC. The ISC, we must always remind ourselves, is a committee composed of parliamentarians—nine from both Houses. It could be eight members from this House and one from another, but it might be some other arrangement, as it is at the moment—seven from another place and two from this House. As a result of the changes that the Bill will bring about the committee will be appointed by and accountable to Parliament. In some ways, requiring these parliamentarians to seek the approval of the rest of Parliament is a restriction on the independence of the body. I think that it would be unusual for Parliament to have such control over the detailed way in which what amounts to a Select Committee—as the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, is looking for—has decided to conduct its business.
We have not yet published the memorandum for the simple reason that the memorandum of understanding does not exist. We are starting the process of agreeing this document with the ISC and will do so in parallel with the Bill’s passage through Parliament.
My Lords, I am a little confused about the memorandum of understanding. We seem to have slipped into an issue that arises in the second part of Clause 2: operational matters. The memorandum also refers to overseeing other activities of Her Majesty’s Government in relation to intelligence and security matters. I understand that that is a reference to the Ministry of Defence, to the CDI—who used to appear before the Intelligence and Security Committee—to the Home Office and to other people who gladly came and gave evidence. Presumably that is part of the memorandum of understanding. There is nothing controversial about this; it merely legitimises and puts into statute a situation that already exists.
If I understand correctly, the Minister is now saying that the memorandum of understanding will not appear before the end of the parliamentary process, and that then it will not be subject to any further parliamentary approval. While I entirely understand that necessarily secure issues in the memorandum may have to be dealt with separately, much of what is in the legislation and the memorandum of understanding are the rules under which the ISC will operate and the access that it will have. The Minister is very nobly taking on the first cut of the Bill, if I may put it like that. The memorandum of understanding will have to be looked at again. If it covers the first part of what I am talking about, certainly it should be available to Parliament. Either it should be under consideration while we debate the Bill or it should come up at a later stage, subject to parliamentary approval if it is subsequent to the passage of the legislation.
My Lords, again I do not think that my noble friend followed what I said. We will not agree the final memorandum until after the Bill has completed. However, I make it clear that we want to produce a draft of it at an earlier stage as we complete our discussions with the ISC. Once we have an agreed draft, it is our intention to publish it to help inform debate. I hope that this will happen before Report. The Bill is only just starting in this House. It has to go through another place as well. As discussions on this will be ongoing—I must not use the word “ongoing”—as the Bill is considered by Parliament, it would not be appropriate to share the first draft before at least it has been agreed by both parties.
My other point is what I said at the beginning of my remarks: the memorandum of understanding, having been agreed by the Prime Minister and the ISC, can be altered and replaced by agreement at any time. Since it is a working document that can move on and be altered and agreed by the two parties, it would not be appropriate to constantly put it back to both Houses of Parliament for debate and agreement. That is not the position with other memorandums of understanding. Normally there is no parliamentary approval process. That is why I mentioned that this had been to the Lords Delegated Powers Scrutiny Committee, which, as far as I know, is perfectly happy with the process.
I will not delay the Committee. I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord King, who clearly understands exactly what is being said—namely, that Parliament will be denied the right to approve the memorandum of understanding. I am sorry that I did not see a copy of the letter that the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, was fortunate to receive. It may have truncated my comments during debate on a number of amendments this evening. However, I suspect that we will have rich pickings in the memorandum and that we will come back to it on Report. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 33 withdrawn.
Amendment 34 not moved.
Clause 2 agreed.
House adjourned at 10.14 pm.